A driveway easement, like other property easements, typically allows the owner of a piece of property to grant use for a specific purpose. Generally, an easement does not provide possession rights to the property; rather, another party is given limited use of the property, sometimes for a set length of time. One example of a driveway easement is sharing parking with another neighbor. Another example is when a driveway separates two homes that are extremely close together. In this case, the easement may allow a neighbor to set up a ladder to access his own roof.
Specific rights under a driveway easement may vary by jurisdiction; local ordinances and any other applicable laws typically should be checked beforehand. An assessor’s office may have property maps that indicate the boundaries of the easement, along with any other easements on the property. In some cases, a property owner may give verbal permission or a license for driveway use and this is considered less binding than an easement. Licenses tend to also be easier to change or dissolve.
There are generally two types of easements: public and private. Driveway easements tend to be private agreements between people and a business or other organization. A public easement allows for public use. An easement may also be granted if a person simply uses the property for a certain amount of time. This can be done without formal permission from the property owner.
When entering into or maintaining an easement agreement, it usually is important to keep the lines of communication open so there are no surprises on either side. Problems can arise when one or both parties fail to follow the terms of the driveway easement. A poor relationship with a neighbor or other party to the easement can create unnecessary problems.
One potential problem area is whether both parties are expected to maintain the property. It should be very clear whether a certain amount of maintenance is required. This may involve services for plowing the driveway or making upgrades, such as resurfacing.
If disputes arise, it typically is recommended that the parties try talking with each other to resolve the issues. In some cases, the conditions of the driveway easement may be renegotiated. If that does not work, a real estate attorney might be contacted to review the easement. It generally is unfair and unwise to proceed with a lawsuit or other collection activity without first trying to resolve the matter with the other party. If the other party deliberately destroys property or refuses to pay for driveway renovations that were previously agreed upon, there is more likely to be recourse for legal action.